Submitted by Douglas Alexander.
I’m certainly not alone in my feeling of relief that the 2020 election is behind us. Not in recent memory has a presidential election been held under such challenging circumstances – a global pandemic, major cybersecurity threats, and an anti-democratic disinformation campaign conducted at the highest levels. Although an election is about politics, it should be an inherently apolitical process that must be seen as free and fair for our democracy to continue functioning. Significant damage has been done to these principles that will require years to repair.
Here in Rhode Island, however, our election was a model of access and security that other states should follow, thanks to the fact that Nellie Gorbea has been our secretary of state for the past six years. When she came into office, Nellie made it her goal to both improve voter access and also to improve our electoral infrastructure. As a result of her leadership, RI’s election process has been transformed, as lessons learned from each election have been applied to the next. In 2020 a record 520,000 RI voters turned in a ballot, an increase of over 60,000 from four years ago. Secretary Gorbea’s push to enshrine early voting into law and distribute mail ballots statewide meant that 70 percent of these votes were cast prior to Election Day – a sign of improved voter access and a vastly safer option for many during a time of rising COVID rates.
I worked the polls at Cole Middle School on Election Day and saw firsthand the improvements she has made. From electronic poll books that ensure voters vote only once at their assigned location to paper ballots that are electronically scanned and saved, Secretary Gorbea has created a model of how elections should be conducted. As a cybersecurity professional I’ve also seen how she has been at the center of RI’s election security efforts as well, working tirelessly with national officials to ensure that our state’s election systems are safe from outside tampering. Where these efforts proved costly, she secured private sector grants for our cities and towns so they could afford to upgrade their systems.
While we may have one of the best electoral systems in the country, our state still faces significant challenges. Once this pandemic is over, our economy will require tremendous effort and strong leadership to recover. We still have deep, systemic problems with our business and education sectors. With both Gov. Raimondo and Sec. of State Gorbea unable to run for additional terms in 2022, I and many others hope that Nellie will enter the Governor’s race. She has shown a willingness to tackle hard problems with clarity and foresight. She understands the inner workings and challenges of our State government better than anyone – indeed, she has spent her time as Secretary improving an impressive number of them. As anyone who knows her like I do will attest, she is relentless in her quest to improve our state for all its citizens, as she has done for our elections. None of us wish to live through another year as challenging as 2020 has been, but we know there will be new challenges ahead. To get us through, Rhode Island will need Nellie Gorbea’s wisdom and leadership.
Douglas Alexander is the former Director of Technology for Warwick Public Schools and is currently the Manager of Member Services Advocacy for OSHEAN, RI’s internet and cloud services provider for education, healthcare, and the public sector. He is also a certified cybersecurity professional. He has lived in EG with his wife and three children since 2015.